Monday, July 11, 2011

The Soup Project:English Pea Soup with Mint, Smokey Blue Cheese and Apricots

I lost my head this past weekend over English peas at the market.

Okay, they aren't in season for very long (two or three weeks) and it's not the kind of thing you'd ever find at the grocery store. And people who shop the markets for English peas, generally snap them up as if they were on sale, making the allure even stronger.

I'd wanted to make fava bean soup and Nash's and Stoney Plains both had good selections at about the same price as shelling peas, but when I saw the peas, I quickly got into the idea of pea soup. I could picture peas with yogurt and I imagined them paired with mint.

But I wasn't thinking about my $100 a week food budget for two, and how foods like peas can blow your food budget out of the water.

Shelling peas are different than sugar snap peas because you toss the pods of shelling peas onto the compost pile, but you eat the the pods of sugar snap peas. The weight of the pods is usually equal to the peas. So instead of paying $4.00 a pound (like the sign says), you really pay $8 a pound for peas. That's how you should look at them.

It's part of my plan, but every year, I lose my head and go weak in the knees when I see English peas. At Willie Green's shelled peas were $10 a pound last year.

Using all fresh peas isn't budget friendly, if your organic peas at $4 a pound but grocery store peas can be much more affordable.

I bought slightly over two pounds of organic peas. I have a kitchen scale, so I weighed both pods and peas after shelling. The pods were slightly heavier than the peas, probably because some of the pods weren't completely filled with peas. That's another thing, do you stand there and feel each pod before buying?

You should at least run your fingers over them to make sure you don't get any duds.

Even though I had a big bag full of peas, I knew I wouldn't quite have enough to make this soup because I wanted to puree the peas to make it creamy. I stopped at Trader Joe's and bought a bag of frozen organic peas for $1.99. So, if you're looking for a more affordable way to make this soup, get at least part of the peas at the grocery store.

There's something really cool about shelling peas in summer. I was sure these little nuggets of gold would attract my Cooking Assistant like a magnet, but look. He clearly favors the frozen version.

I was sure his odd preference was because I set the bowl of frozen peas down last. But when I switched places, but his nose still went for frozen grocery store organic peas. I tell you, I'm such a local foodie, it's almost embarassing to see this, but the store bought peas are significanly less expensive.

When I told Tom about Finn's store bought pea preference, I realized I was full of denial about it. It wasn't right, so I grabbed a few of each variety of peas and put them in front of him.

Surely the bowls had influenced him, who wouldn't want the bowl that had more peas?

But guess what? Those Trader Joe's peas have seduced this dog. But then, basset hounds are weird, ask Pioneer Woman.

If you have fresh peas, use them like I did in this recipe and put them in the soup during the last few minutes of cooking.

This recipe was inspired by two recipes in Barbara Kafka's Vegetable Love. I like the way she paired mint with peas and while her soup was made with milk, it's easy enough to make the soup dairy free, so that's what I did.

Yes, the soup really is bright green. I added mushrooms, onions and potatoes so it would also appeal to Tom. I like just the peas, mint and apricots, but Tom doesn't eat soup unless it contains lots of "stuff " like potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms.

Here's the soup of the week:

English Pea Soup with Mint, Smokey Blue Cheese and Apricots
(Serves 4)

8 mushrooms, sliced
2 spring onions, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 small new potatoes, diced
2 pounds peas (fresh or frozen organic peas)
1 1/2 cups coconut drink (from aseptic box)
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
1/2 to 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium firm apricot, chopped
Blue cheese (optional)

1. Dry fry mushrooms until they release their juice. Add onions and olive oil. Stir and cook until onions caramelize. Add potatoes, stir and cook until potatoes are soft.

2. Heat half of the peas in 1 cup coconut drink. When warm, blend in a blender with all the coconut milk until smooth and creamy. Return to pan. Add remaining peas and heat through. Do not over cook or it won't be as brilliant green. Stir in most of the mint leaves. Leave a few for garnish. Add lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Ladel the vegetables in before serving.

3. Garnish with mint leaves, apricot and crumbled blue cheese (if desired)

The guy's version.


Torviewtoronto said...

interesting site following you too

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Thanks I love your recipes. What do you cook all the time???? So creative!

Tanvi said...

This looks great! I especially love the pictures of your doggie choosing his favorite peas! What a cutie pie.

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Thanks the soup was really good and getting some of the peas frozen, helped defray the cost. Funny about Finn's pick, I was sure he'd prefer the freshly picked peas.

Divya said...

Cute post - love the dog!

Mal said...

I too just went crazy for shelling peas at the market here in Olympia! I love the taste of that fresh pea so much that I can't bring myself to use them in anything cooked--I've just been eating them straight from the pod or popping them on salads! I wish they had a longer season!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Funny, us fresh pea addicts! I stood among others who eagerly shoved handfuls into bags. They're one of the best things about summer!